Avantium

overall rating:

2.5

planets

Harper Kiger Eaton
12/3/2021
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Avantium is a motivated company that is aiming to decarbonize the world. They have a portfolio of disruptive technologies that contribute to sustainability and circularity. It should be noted, they are a very young company and most of their technologies are yet to reach commercial scale. However, their technologies, specifically the YXY technology, have the potential to remove fossil fuels from plastics. They have developed a 100% bioplastic that has also proven to have beneficial mechanical properties. I was very impressed with Avantium’s ability to incorporate sustainability within their entire company. They are very hands-on with their employees and make concerted efforts to improve the sustainability of their own lives. I appreciated the fact that Avantium also has a growth mindset. They understand that currently, they are not a 100% sustainable company. However, they identify issues and set obtainable goals to help combat their weakness. Avantium received a 2.5 planet score because of these reasons. They have an incredible amount of leverage within the plastic industry and I can’t wait to see the progress they make while scaling the company.

What it's made of:

2.5

Avantium is a very young business that is still developing. As 2021 comes to a close, Avantium has no products on the market. Therefore, the details of their carbon footprint, along with other measurable data like waste or energy consumption, are limited. However, Avantium is in the process of implementing innovative technologies that could change the sustainability of plastics completely. They are developing four new technologies that could revolutionize various areas of sustainability. Their YXY technology is the furthest developed and most promising. Without going too deep into the complex chemistry of the technology, YXY is essentially a catalyst to the process that converts plant-based sugar, known as fructose, into a chemical called furan dicarboxylic acid (FDCA). FDCA is the key ingredient to building polyethylene furoate (PEF), a biopolymer. PEF is the key to removing fossil fuel-based polymers used to make items like plastic bottles. Plastic has traditionally been made with polymers made from the chemical polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The raw materials used to make PET are derived from crude oil and natural gas, whereas PEF comes from biomaterials like crops, forestry, and agriculture waste. When a company produces a 16-ounce bottle of PET plastic, the bottle generates 100 times more toxic emissions into the air and water when compared to the same sized glass bottle. With the emergence of PEF plastics, fossil fuels can be cut out of the supply chain of plastic.

Avantium plans to scale the business and replace fossil fuel-based plastics. The PEF polymer is 100% plant-based that is both recyclable and biodegradable. They found that their PEF-based plastic also has better functionality attributes than typical PET plastics. The PET plastic can house CO2 better which means products can have a longer shelf life which would limit waste. They found that the material is actually stronger, meaning fewer resources are required to make thinner packaging that is just as strong. This plant-based plastic has a 50-70% lower carbon footprint compared to traditional plastic. These findings are an incredible step in the right direction. The discovery of PEF plastics has the potential to remove fossil fuels from the majority of supply chains. However, it is important to point out that while this plastic is very promising, some aspects are still yet to be proven. We need to keep an eye out for Avantium and hold Avantium accountable for the promises they have given.

How it's made:

2.5

The Avantium headquarters is based in Amsterdam. They have R&D laboratories in Geleen and Delfzijl in the Netherlands. As a company, they have set a net-zero carbon emissions plan by 2030. They are focusing on efficiencies within their laboratories and production plants. As of now, their most developed technology has successfully passed through a pilot production plant and has now moved to a flagship plant. Central to their net-zero emissions plan, Avantium plans to power these plants with 100% renewable energy. They are looking into the practicality of implementing other energy forms to heat their factories, such as biogas. They have a clear goal of making all operations net-zero while introducing energy efficiency measures where they can.

Additionally, they have outlined the activities that contribute to their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions. Their goal is to have a calculation of carbon emission for every action within their company. Specifically, Avantium has targeted scope 3 emissions in hopes to limit their overall carbon emissions. For example, they have put in place the Avantium Mobility Plan. The plan states: “Employees choosing to travel by public transport receive an NS Business Travel Card, enabling employees to travel for free for all work and personal transport across the Netherlands, including train, metro, tram and bus travel, as well as the use of the OV bike system.” Paying for employees’ transportation fees is a great way to incentivize employees to limit their carbon footprint, ultimately tackling their scope 3 emissions.

Avantium is aiming to achieve a circular production line. They have a good understanding that this process is very challenging. They realize that circularity must come from every part of their supply chain. Avantium is in the business of creating disruptive technologies, ones that will facilitate the green transition of supply chains globally. This will allow the dream of circularity to become an actuality. Their YXY technology takes sustainable feedstock, like agricultural crops or forestry, and turns it into sugars. With the sugars, they are able to produce FDCA which is the building block for PEF plastic. It has been shown that PEF plastic is degraded at a much faster pace compared to traditional PET plastic. Avantium has done a great job of tending to the entire life cycle with its technologies.

Who makes it:

3

Along with their efforts to create sustainable technologies, Avantium has a heavy focus on their work environment. They have created the “Green Team” to establish sustainability with bottom-up change. The Green Team is a group of employees that interacts with other employees and tries to help incorporate sustainability into their personal tasks at the company. Employees are incentivized to improve the sustainability within their own lives with small prizes from events like photo contests. Avantium is unique in the way it interacts with its employees. They seem to understand that their own employees are an important part of the solution they are trying to provide.

With the importance Avantium places on its employees, it is no shock that they take safety very seriously. They have a shortlist of rules in the workplace called the “Golden Rules”, the main points of which emphasize the importance of community and learning from mistakes. It is understood in the company that no one is perfect. Avantium has gone through many failed trials for its new technology and is fully aware that it is unfair to put unnecessary pressure on its employees. Additionally, Avantium is committed to having every one of its production plants ISO45001 certified within the next two years. The ISO45001 certification essentially means that a company is following outlined occupational health and safety guidelines. There is a program put in place that checks in with the company often to ensure the correct procedures are being followed. Most of Avantiums work consists of close contact with either hazardous chemicals or dangerous machinery. Avantium understands the dangers present in its workplace and has been able to install effective procedures.